Duhan van der Merwe scored a hattrick of tries in his first match on South African soil as a British and Irish Lion as the tourists romped to a one-sided 54-7 win over the Cell C Sharks in their second tour match at Emirates Airlines Park in Johannesburg on Wednesday night.
The Lions had to make several late changes to their team and their bench because of the Covid outbreak in the camp that forced the game to kick-off an hour later than was scheduled. When it was confirmed that the game could be played because it had been established that only one player in addition to the initial management member had tested positive, some significant changes were made to the planned match day squad.
Among those was Owen Farrell, selected as a centre on this tour, which was where he played the first tour game against the Sigma Lions a few days ago, coming in as the starting flyhalf. The England captain turned in a commanding performance in the No 10 jersey that should have given Lions coach Warren Gatland something to think about regarding his flyhalf options, if he wasn’t already.
The tourists played with an incredible tempo that the Sharks couldn’t live with and dominated the gainline, not allowing the Sharks pack any space to breathe.
The Sharks simply didn’t help themselves as whenever they did get into promising positions, they made basic errors and tried to offload when it wasn’t on. It also did not help that the Sharks were poor defensively and fell off tackles, allowing the Lions far too much space on the outside.
This is where Duhan van der Merwe capitalised as the South African-born wing scored a first-half brace, before Bundee Aki burst over to make it 26-0 at half time.
The Sharks finally got some joy in the second half as they attacked the Lions’ defensive weakness out wide, with James Venter finishing off an excellent try.
However, any hope of a comeback was snuffed out as a poor error from Thaakir Abrahams allowed Adams to score his brace, before Louis Rees-Zammit capitalised on another error to extend the Lions’ lead.
Owen Farrell was not named in the original match-day 23, but had to come into the starting lineup at flyhalf at the 11th hour. Despite this, he had a sublime match and pulled the strings excellently for the Lions. The Sharks simply could not deal with the Englishman as he seemed to find space every time he put boot to ball.
Despite starting in the unfamiliar position of fullback, Josh Adams grabbed a hat-trick to take his overall tally to seven tries after just two games. Duhan van der Merwe also bagged a hat-trick, but was caught out on defence for the Sharks’ only try of the match.
For the Sharks, Werner Kok had comfortably his best match in a black jersey. He looked like the only Sharks player with any sort of intensity in the first half and carried that through into the second, playing a big role in their try. Kok tackled everything that came into his path, but was unlucky to get yellow-carded in the first half.
Also on Wednesday, South Africa's fixture against Georgia was cancelled after Covid-19 outbreaks in both camps and on Tuesday the Lions' 10 July game against the Bulls was postponed because of coronavirus cases in the South African side.
Sharks - (0) 7
Try: James Venter
Conversion: Curwin Bosch
Lions - (26) 54
Tries: Josh Adams (3), Duhan van der Merwe (3), Bandee Aki, Louis Rees-Zammit
Conversions: Owen Farrell (3), Finn Russell (4)
Cell C Sharks: Libbok; Kok, Ward, Louw, Abrahams; Bosch, Hendrikse; Mona, Mbatha, Mchunu, Van Heerden, Andrews, Venter, Bholi, Buthelezi (capt).
Replacements: Van Vuuren, Mchunu, Herbst, Van der Mescht, Hugo, Richardson, Williams,Volmink.
British and Irish Lions: Adams, Rees-Zammit, Daly, Aki, Van der Merwe; Farrell, Price; Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Fagerson, Henderson (capt), Beard, Navidi, Curry, Simmonds.
Replacements: Owens, Sutherland, Furlong, Itoje, Conan, H Watson, Russell, Faletau.